December 17, 2016

In the News: Yours Truly

I was recently quoted in The New York Times regarding the laser-projector craze. The article is here.

OK, it was mostly AJ who was quoted, but I do get my own paragraph! Deduct another minute from my 15 minutes of fame.

December 13, 2016

In the News: My Pillow & False Advertising

Five years ago I wrote a pieced titled, "How to Predict the Future." The background was that several marketers had recently gotten into trouble for false or misleading claims. I shared proof that I had predicted their woes, but I also made it clear that I didn't think my predictions were anything special.

"In truth, anyone can be a swami when it comes to predicting the future of DRTV commercials that make such claims," I wrote.

I thought of that piece again when I read Venable's latest column in Response magazine. Here are the key paragraphs:

On Oct. 27, the Alameda County district attorney’s office filed suit against My Pillow in Alameda County Superior Court, alleging that the company made unsubstantiated claims that the pillow could help treat or relieve conditions such as allergies, asthma, fibromyalgia, insomnia, migraines, neck pain, restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, and TMJ ...

In addition, the company allegedly advertised its pillow as the 'Official Choice of the National Sleep Foundation,' without disclosing to consumers that the company was providing material support to the foundation in exchange for the endorsement.

Less than one week after filing the My Pillow complaint, the district attorneys and the company settled the case.

My Pillow paid "almost $1 million in civil penalties" and will "donate more than $100,000 to certain California charities," according to the article (full text here).

I predicted something like this would happen the moment I saw the claims referenced on the My Pillow Website. I have no legal training, nor am I clairvoyant, but I didn't have to be either to see this one coming. Neither do you. In my original piece, I lay out three steps for predicting and avoiding this kind of trouble.

Better yet, read a real legal expert. Jeff Knowles' columns are always highly informative.

December 06, 2016

Your 2016 DRMA Member of the Year


Great news, everyone! This blog (and your access to it) will continue!

Seriously, thanks to everyone for your support. We truly appreciate it.

December 05, 2016

Fear, Sex & Cuts

I'm reading Robert Cialdini's latest book, Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade. Dr. Cialdini is the social psychologist who wrote the 1986 classic, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.

Dr. Cialdini's work should be familiar to any student of direct-response advertising techniques. For example, the idea of using testimonials as "social proof" came from his work.

In his latest book, I have come across two compelling findings (so far) with direct relevance to our industry.

1. Fear Makes Us Want to Fit in, Arousal to Stand Out

In the section of the book titled "Commanders of Attention," Dr. Cialdini examines how our reaction to threatening stimuli primes us to be influenced in a completely different way than our reaction to sexual stimuli:

[W]e realized that humans encountering threatening circumstances would have developed early on a strong tendency to be part of a group (where there is safety and strength in numbers) and to avoid being separate (where there is vulnerability to a predator or enemy). The opposite would be true, however, in a situation with sexual possibilities. There a person would want distance from the pack in order to be the prime recipient of romantic consideration.

We also realized that these two contrary motivations, to fit in and to stand out, map perfectly onto a pair of longtime favorite commercial appeals. One, of the 'Don’t be left out' variety, urges us to join the many. The other, of the 'Be one of the few' sort, urges us to step away from the many. So, which would an advertiser be better advised to launch into the minds of prospects?

The answer: It depends. This is where it gets really interesting. Dr. Cialdini suggests that a new way to improve response may be to go deeper than demographics when considering ad placement — because certain types of content work with your main motivating message and certain types of content work against it.

[T]he popularity-based message would be the right one in any situation where audience members had been exposed to frightening stimuli—perhaps in the middle of watching a violent film on TV—because threat-focused people want to join the crowd. But sending that message in an ad to an audience watching a romantic film on TV would be a mistake, because amorously focused people want to step away from the crowd.

The same thinking applies to the content within a commercial, of course. Sex sells, but only in the right context. "Put people in a wary state of mind ... and, driven by a desire for safety, a popularity-based appeal will soar, whereas a distinctiveness-based appeal will sink," Cialdini writes. "But use it to put people in an amorous state of mind, and, driven by a consequent desire to stand out, the reverse will occur."

2. Cuts are Crucial, But Less is More

While studying mass media at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Dr. Cialdini met an expert in TV advertising. From her, he learned some of the techniques of what he calls "persuasion-oriented producers." In particular, he learned that:

[C]uts are crucial to persuasive success because they can be manipulated to bring into focus the feature of a message the persuader believes to be most convincing— by shifting the scene to that feature. That cut will instigate an orienting response to the winning feature in audience members’ brains before they even experience it [consciously].

A handful of top-shelf producers in our industry are masters of this technique. When you watch their commercials, you don't even realize that your attention is being directed. It feels like your eyes are simply focusing on something you wanted to see more closely. It just so happens that is the exact thing you need to see to be sold. Indeed, many times viewers (including myself) don't even notice there was a cut. It takes a careful review of the commercial to catch it.

Given the power of this technique, it's no surprise most major advertisers deploy it frequently. However, Dr. Cialdini writes that cuts must be used "judiciously to direct attention solely to the most important facets" of your material. Too bad most advertisers haven't learned that lesson.

Research confirms that ... TV advertisers have chosen instead to increase indiscriminately and dramatically the overall frequency of scene shifts within their ads by more than 50 percent over the years. Predictably, viewers end up confused as to the point of the ad and irritated by having their focus whipped around so often and so haphazardly. As a result, even though cut-heavy TV commercials draw more total attention, they produce significantly less memory for the ad’s persuasive claims and significantly less persuasion. It’s easy to understand why: viewers’ attention isn’t fixated on the ads’ best points but is scattered all over the material’s relevant and irrelevant attributes. For everyone concerned, it’s a case of death by a thousand cuts.

This is one of the crucial things amateur producers get wrong. I see it all the time. Quick cuts create confusion, and confusion is a sales killer.


Should I discover some other relevant psychological techniques as I finish the book, I'll be sure to post about them. In the meantime, I highly recommend both of Dr. Cialdini's books. Links below.

December 01, 2016

SciMark Report from November Response

My SciMark Report in print for November is now available on the Response Website.

This month I write about IdeaVillage's Comfort Click Belt and the Get Up & Go Cane from Telebrands/Lenfest. I also provide an update on the "pan wars" I first blogged about in February.

November 22, 2016

Last Chance to Vote!

This is the last day to vote for Asieya Pine for 2016 DRMA Member of the Year! CLICK HERE to vote for Asieya now.

If you don't vote for Asieya, your access to The SciMark Report will automatically be blocked forever. CLICK HERE to vote for Asieya now.

That last thing was probably a joke, but can you be sure? Why take the chance? CLICK HERE to vote for Asieya now.

If you already voted, great job! But what if your vote didn't go through? Technology can be so unreliable. Just to be sure, CLICK HERE and vote for Asieya again now.

If you have no idea what this post is about, just CLICK HERE and vote for Asieya. I promise I will explain it to you later.


What Expert Execution Looks Like

Recently, I argued that "superior strategy and expert execution" are "the twin weapons that are determining who comes out on top" in the DRTV industry these days.

So what does expert execution look like? As I see it, it involves a high degree of competence in five key areas. Click here to find out what those areas are in this month's Field Report.


November 21, 2016

Steve Rivkin, RIP

A friend informed me today of the the sad news that Steve Rivkin passed away on November 16. He was 69.

Steve was a colleague of mine at IdeaVillage, and we remained in contact over the years. I always looked up to and admired Steve as a legend in the field. For those who don't know, he was an accomplished marketing consultant who spent 14 years with Jack Trout and Al Ries at their famous firm. He co-wrote six books on marketing, including four with Mr. Trout. He was also a renowned product-naming expert. I have written about and linked to his Naming Newsletter on several occasions (e.g. here, here and here).

You can read a profile of Steve's accomplishments on Wikipedia. His obituary is here.

I will truly miss Steve. My deepest condolences to his wife and family.

November 10, 2016

The SciMark Report Endorses ...

After a fair and objective review of all of the candidates for 2016 DRMA Member of the Year, I have determined that one candidate stands above the rest and should receive your vote.

The SciMark Report endorses: Asieya Pine.

Here are the top three reasons you should vote for Asieya:

  1. She is an inspirational success story, rising from executive assistant at what was then a small boutique agency to president of the No. 1 short-form agency in the country. Glass what?
  3. Her intelligence and diligence have most likely made your company millions of dollars over the years.
  5. Happy wife, happy life. Happy blogger. More great, free content for you. See how that works?

So don't delay: CLICK HERE to vote for Asieya today!

October 25, 2016

SciMark Report from October Response

My SciMark Report in print for October is now available on the Response Website.

This month I cover: Allstar's True Touch, IdeaVillage's Airbrush Magic and Telebrands' Couch Coat.

October 14, 2016

In the News: DRTV Thief Busted

Federal authorities arrested an employee of an unnamed DRTV company Thursday for allegedly selling trade secrets, according to the US attorney's office in New Jersey. As explained in a press release:

Ralph Mandil, 37, of West Long Branch, New Jersey, was arrested by special agents of the FBI following a two-month sting operation in which he offered to sell to undercover agents inside information about his employer’s business. He is charged by complaint with one count of theft of trade secrets and one count of wire fraud ...

Between Aug. 1, 2016, and Oct. 12, 2016, Mandil allegedly exchanged emails, phone calls and held meetings with people he believed were representatives of a New Jersey-based competitor of Victim 1. The individuals he was communicating with were, in fact, government agents outfitted with audio/video recording devices.

Throughout those communications, Mandil allegedly offered to provide the agents with proprietary trade secrets belonging to Victim 1, including unreleased product names, specifications, artwork, advertising, market data, manufacturing and other information, in addition to providing them with access to Victim 1’s “drop box,” or cloud storage account, in exchange for $197,500.

Mandil faces up to 10 years in prison for the theft of trade secrets charge and up to 20 years in prison for the wire fraud charge.

I asked Telebrands President AJ Khubani to comment on the news. "Hopefully this will make people in our industry think twice about sharing valuable trade secrets," he said.

October 07, 2016

5 Ways to Lose Your Shirt in DRTV

Industry experts often write about how to succeed in DRTV, but knowing how to fail can be even more instructive. In my latest Field Report for the ERA blog, I take this reverse approach and share five ways to go bust in this business.

Click here to read all about it.

September 22, 2016

SciMark Report from September Response

My SciMark Report in print for September is now available on the Response Website.

Do you like breaking the rules? Then you'll love the rollouts I cover this month: Telebrands' Dial Vision, Tristar's Free TV Key and Ontel's Magic Tracks.

September 13, 2016

The Commoditization of DRTV

My latest Field Report is now available on the ERA blog. In it, I argue all DRTV companies are essentially the same these days -- except for two things.

To find out what those two things are, click here to read the post. As always, I welcome your feedback.

August 25, 2016

SciMark Report from August Response

My SciMark Report in print for August is now available on the Response Website.

This month, my theme is DRTV items that have also appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank. Two recent rollouts came from the show, and many others have been pitched in both places.

Click above to read all about it.

August 15, 2016

Marketer of the Year Cheat Sheet

Wondering who should get your vote for DRMA Marketer of the Year? If you (like me) believe the award should go to the marketer who has had the most measurable success, then DRMetrix has your answer.

July 24, 2016

The Mid-Year True Top 50

Welcome to the new TRUE TOP 50, brought to you by DRMetrix and The SciMark Report. We begin with the first half of 2016. Click on the image below to see the most-aired DRTV campaigns in rank order and also learn which advertisers dominated the airwaves. Then read below to see who we’ve named the ‘best of the best’ for the year to date.

(Click to see the complete chart)


Our first award of 2016 goes to IDEAVILLAGE PRODUCTS CORP. IdeaVillage had the No. 1 and No. 2 biggest spending campaigns of the first half of the year: Copper Fit and MicroTouch Tough Blade. IdeaVillage entered the copper compression garments category with two competitors to beat, yet no other copper brand appears on our top 50 chart. Meanwhile, the Copper Fit brand appears twice in the top 10 and three times in the top 20. Overall, IdeaVillage had six campaigns in the top 50, the most of any marketer.


Our second award of 2016 goes to BLUE REEF PRODUCTIONS, thanks in large part to the same Copper Fit campaigns mentioned above. Blue Reef produced the commercial with the highest Spend Index (Copper Fit Back Pro) and has the most appearances on the top 50 (four). It shares the impressive record cited above: two campaigns in the top 10 and three in the top 20. California-based Blue Reef and its leader, Mark Fanjoy, are relatively new names in the short-form business but quickly made an impression with high production value commercials for IdeaVillage starring legendary NFL quarterback Brett Favre.


Our runner-up for top marketer is ALLSTAR PRODUCTS GROUP, with the third highest Spend Index for the period, two campaigns in the top 10 (Roto Clipper, Wonder Wallet) and five campaigns on the top 50 chart in total.

Our runner-up for top producer is PADDOCK PRODUCTIONS. Besides having three campaigns of its own on the charts (Bell+Howell TacLight, $50 Gold Buffalo Coin and Slice Right), the production company is responsible for the behind-the-scenes work of two other campaigns. That also makes Paddock the most diverse operator in the production category as each of those successes is with a different marketer.

One unofficial award also deserves mentioning: the True Top Feeder. “Feeder” is our word for a smaller company that “feeds” hits to the big advertisers /distributors shown on the charts. By our estimation, roughly 20 percent of the top 50 came from feeders this time around. (Since these alliances aren’t always publicized, it can be hard to tell.)

In any case, there’s no doubt this is a growing trend and, based on what our research was able to turn up, our first award for the year in this category should go to LENFEST MEDIA GROUP. Pennsylvania-based Lenfest had two hits on the chart: Roto Clipper (No. 8) with Allstar and Furniture Feet (No. 45) with Ontel.


There are many other interesting things the DRMetrix data can tell us. Here’s something basic yet important: What categories are delivering hits these days. For instance, we observed a noteworthy change in the lighting category, which many have considered a bad category for several years. The first half of 2016 saw three lights make it into the top 50: Emson’s Bell+Howell TacLight (No. 23), Ontel’s EverBrite (No. 26) and Telebrands’ Atomic Beam (No. 50).

Unsurprisingly, one of the most dominant categories was cooking/kitchen with four hits in the top 50 (Gotham Steel Pan, Red Copper Pan, 1 Second Slicer and Slice Right). More surprising were the four DIY items on the chart, including the Flex Seal juggernaut as well as newcomers Rust-Oleum ReColor (No. 13), Lazer Bond (No. 19) and 5 Second Fix (No. 44).

However, some of these categories are misleadingly over-represented because the number of competitive items continues to grow. Earlier we mentioned that IdeaVillage was able to shake two competitors in the copper compression garments category, but others have not been as lucky.

Emson’s Gotham Steel Pan (No. 7) continues to battle Telebrands’ Red Copper Pan (No. 14) for dominance. A similar battle has emerged between the two marketers for flashlight supremacy as Emson’s Bell+Howell TacLight (No. 23) has Telebrands’ Atomic Beam (No. 50) nipping at its heels. Meanwhile, Telebrands’ Lazer Bond (No. 19) faces competition from Ontel’s 5 Second Fix (No. 44), and the marketer only recently broke free of competition in the hose category to stand alone in the top 50 with Pocket Hose Top Brass (No. 20).

One final note: The SciMark Report has always focused on short-form DRTV products, and our awards reflect that bias. However, DRMetrix’s AdSphere service provides comprehensive coverage of all DRTV, including brand, lead-generation and long-form commercials. Some of that data is also presented in the charts that accompany this article.

July 21, 2016

SciMark Report from July Response

My SciMark Report in print for July is now available on the Response Website.

This month, I cover two recent rollouts and one not-so-recent rollout that are highlighted because they demonstrate that visual interest is a key to DRTV success.

Click above to read about: Avento's Rust-Oleum ReColor (produced by Adcomm and starring Beau Rials), Emson's Bell+Howell TacLight (produced by Paddock and written by yours truly) and Jay At Play's Flip-A-Zoo (from the incomparable Hutton-Miller).

Four Powerful Factors Only DR Pros Know

“Leads have four critical factors. What they cost is only one...Until you know all four of those factors, you don’t know anything.”

This quote opens my latest Field Report for the ERA blog. To learn (or be reminded of) the four factors, and read my story illustrating why they are so important, click here.

July 19, 2016

The NEW True Top 50

Big news! I'm teaming up with DRMetrix to create the industry's most accurate scorecard ever published: the new True Top 50.

The need for a "Billboard" chart for DRTV campaigns has always been clear: Marketers, producers, retailers and others need to know what's really working on DRTV so they can be smart about what bets they make. We’ve had such charts since the 1990s, but serious accuracy problems make them unreliable. This issue is what prompted me to introduce the "true" concept in the summer of 2010 using the best third-party data available at that time. Yet the result was still far from perfect.

For example, I quickly had to abandon the idea of ranking campaigns. Because we buy our media at deep discounts that vary by agency and even by hour, rate-card estimates have no shot at being accurate. This is one reason why self-reporting (with all of its problems) became a dominant methodology.

My solution was to present the unranked list of top spenders with which you're familiar. But there are still problems with those charts. With no good way of accounting for 30s and 60s, I have only been able to include 120s in my calculations. I've also had no way to keep track of local airings, which can be a significant portion of DR spending. And so on.

Enter Joseph Gray and DRMetrix. If you haven’t heard the name, you will soon. Smart agencies, advertisers and retail buyers are rapidly signing up for access to the company's AdSphere service. The reason: The data is incredibly accurate, unimpeachable and custom-made for our industry. Using the latest commercial “sniffing” technology, DRMetrix is able to pick up and log every DRTV airing and present that data in highly useful ways. You can see who’s advertising what products where, watch the latest versions of their commercials and study trend data over time. Most exciting for me, I can rank the True Top 50 accurately at last!

Going forward, Joseph and his team will be supplying the data and the charts, and I will be presenting the analysis as well as announcing the True Top Marketer, True Top Producer and other awards for the period in question. We’ll be doing this twice a year, so if you’re in the game, you have two shots at annual glory.

It all kicks off Monday morning right here on the The SciMark Report. Be sure to check your inbox first thing.

July 07, 2016

Recent Rollouts: Star Shower Motion, Gotham Grill

Star Shower Motion

Description: A laser projector
Main Pitch: "Now it's easy to cover any home with brilliant, moving stars"
Main Offer: $49.99 for one
Bonus: Upgrade to red/green dual laser (free), indoor base (free)
Brand: Star Shower
Starring: Joe Fowler, Mindy McCortney
Marketer: Telebrands
Watch the spot

I reviewed this project in December of last year. Since then, Telebrands has redone the commercial and gone all out with two spokespeople and a fun, big-budget opening. Click above to check it out.

Gotham Steel Double Grill

Description: A non-stick cooking surface
Main Pitch: "A grill on one side and griddle on the other"
Main Offer: $29.99 for one
Bonus: Gotham Steel pan (just pay a separate fee)
Brand: Gotham Steel
Starring: Graham Elliot
Marketer: Emson
Watch the spot

I missed this one, losing track of the Gotham line extensions after the pan wars heated up. It seems the brand has staked out quite a bit of territory for itself since then and is starting to pull away from the fray.

That said, the Jordan Whitney Greensheet is showing its first two "ties" ever, and one of them is between the Red Copper Pan and the Gotham Steel pan, so we'll see what counter-moves Telebrands makes.

Beau Rials: 'The Closer'

So good, he can even sell ...

Beau Rials, the consummate pitchman and my first choice for a commercial spokesperson, put together this fun Geico commercial on spec.

Be sure to give it lots of "likes" if you want to see it on TV!


July 05, 2016

Erica Meloni, RIP

I opened the most recent issue of Response magazine and learned the sad news that Erica Meloni of Top Dog had passed away back in May. She was only 40 and leaves behind a young daughter, Lily, born in 2008. The obituary is here.

My condolences to her family and the Top Dog family.

In lieu of flowers, they had requested contributions to Lily's education fund. Anyone still wishing to contribute can mail to: Lily Meloni, c/o Bank of America, 503 S. Oxford Valley Road, Fairless Hills, PA 19033.

June 30, 2016

Recent Rollouts: Hot Hands, Press 2 Paste

Hot Hands

Description: Silicone gloves
Main Pitch: "Tough enough to handle all the hot stuff"
Main Offer: $10 for one pair
Bonus: 2nd pair (just pay P&H), Lovin' Oven thermometer (free)
Starring: Marc Gill
Marketer: Ontel
Producer: Concepts
Watch the spot

I reviewed this project back in January. It is only just now rolling out.

"The reason to believe this could be a hit is the Old Gold (and evergreen) product Ove Glove from Joseph Enterprises," I wrote. However, no "attempt to replicate its success has worked," I added. "This marketer tried with Tuff Glove in the fall of 2014, and Anthony Sullivan tried with Grill Glove (a product that resembles this one) in 2010."

I used to say: "In DR, the third time is never the charm." Now you can see why I changed it to: "In DR, the third time is seldom the charm."

Press 2 Paste

Description: A toothpaste dispenser
Main Pitch: "Dispenses the perfect amount of toothpaste every time"
Main Offer: $12.99 for one with toothbrush holder
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Allstar/Lenfest
Producer: Concepts
Watch the spot

Speaking of the winter of this year, and Old Gold, I reviewed this project in February.

"To be honest, I'm still not sure why this item was a success in the first place," I confessed, referring to the 2009 Allstar/Merchant Media hit Touch 'N Brush. But after some snarky comments about the credibility of the device, I gave it a good prognosis. "Allstar knows how to sell it, and we're close enough to the seven-year break a Phoenix needs to rise again," I explained.

What's most interesting to me about this item's success is that it lacks "pester power" and play value (parents hope), two seemingly essential criteria for kid-focused items. Perhaps I am misjudging this one, though, and kids are drawn to the way this works?

June 29, 2016

Are Details Really Divine?

God is in the details. Or is it the devil? Whichever you believe, I argue in this month's Field Report that consumers are usually not in the details. That is, they are not paying much attention to the minutiae of our projects. So why do we spend so much time focused there?

Click here to read the post.

June 23, 2016

SciMark Report from June Response

My SciMark Report in print for June is now available on the Response Website.

This month, I cover two interesting tests and one new rollout. They are: Telebrands' Trump Thumb Flag, Allstar's Orbitrim and Tristar's Crumby Vac.

June 16, 2016

Corrections & Clarifications

In my recent post about the Rocket Fishing Rod (since updated), I listed the wrong marketer. The correct marketer is Goliath. I regret the error.

I also learned (and have added) the producer: It is Infomercials Inc.

June 15, 2016

Old Gold: Rocket Fishing Rod

Current Marketer: Goliath
Current Producer: Infomercials Inc.
Original Hit Year: 2007
Original Marketer: Spin Direct
Watch the original spot
Watch the new spot

This is a recent rollout that is currently climbing the charts. Calling it "old gold" may not be accurate, though. It doesn't seem to have found its way onto the typical charts back in 2007-2008, and the Website says "over half a million sold." That's not peanuts, but it also isn't anything to write home to mom about in this day of high-volume hoses and proliferating pans. More like "old silver."

On a side note, I may have to change my mind about the fishing category. First Twitching Lure and now this? It seems fishing may be resurgent.

June 02, 2016

Recent Rollout: Twitching Lure

Description: A fishing lure
Main Pitch: "Twitches, flashes and buzzes like a wounded bait fish"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Tristar
Watch the spot

This is the first chart-listed success in the fishing category in quite some time. Recent short-form history is littered with flops and even includes a failed attempt to bring back Ron Popeil's Pocket Fisherman in 2014. As a result, readers of this blog are well aware of my feelings about this category: I think it's floating belly up in the DR fishbowl. Does this success prove I'm wrong? Maybe.

The big challenges with the category still apply. Only about seven percent of people fish on a regular basis. The pastime is seasonal for the most of the country. And as with golf products, media choices are limited unless you can somehow generate enough response to justify the money wasted on a shotgun approach.

Putting all of that aside, the pitch and creative for this campaign are both excellent. I especially liked the lines "experts say [it] catches too many fish" and "it's even banned in some states." That's good stuff right there. DR students should take note.

May 29, 2016

Recent Rollouts: Woof Washer, Spray Perfect

Woof Washer 360

Description: A dog-washing system
Main Pitch: "Your dog will be shampooed and rinsed in under one minute"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one, Pocket Hose Dura-Rib (just pay a separate fee)
Starring: David Jones
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Concepts TV
Watch the spot

I reviewed this viral success back in July of last year. "[T]his is it!" I wrote. "If any buzz-backed project is going to do the dollars, it’s this one."

A year later, this is a bona-fide TV rollout. The spot has been re-done to include new demos and host David Jones, who is always a welcome addition. (Here's the original spot.) The offer has also been revised to a BOGO plus the Pocket Hose Dura-Rib as a bonus instead of the original microfiber mitt.

Now we wait and see how this campaign does at retail. If successful all the way through, we may be looking at a new DRTV model for the future.

Spray Perfect

Description: Spray-on nail polish
Main Pitch: "The world's fastest manicure"
Main Offer: $19.99 for a can in choice of seven colors
Bonus: 2nd can/color, base & top coat (free)
Starring: Taylor Baldwin
Marketer: Top Dog
Producer: Hutton-Miller
Watch the spot

Speaking of the new viral-to-DR success model, this campaign is another case study. It started online, generated a ton of buzz and then turned into a DRTV competition that I reviewed back in March.

Apparently Telebrands has dropped their version and Top Dog now has this one all to itself.

SciMark Report from May Response

My SciMark Report in print for May is now available on the Response Website.

This month, I cover three rollouts that were new to the charts when I wrote about them. They are: Rodent Sheriff, IdeaVillage's Swerve Ball and Spark's EZ Slice Right (written by yours truly).

May 18, 2016

Recent Rollout: Swerve Ball

Description: A specially shaped baseball
Main Pitch: "Fun and wild and lets you pitch like the pros"
Main Offer: $14.99 for 3 balls with “sweet spot” sleeve
Bonus: 3 additional balls, strike zone target (free)
Starring: Bobby Mills
Marketer: IdeaVillage
Watch the spot

IdeaVillage has rolled out with two other sports toys this year: Hamper Hoops and Hover Hockey. Last year, a soccer toy called Hover Ball was also a rollout for the marketer. All three were sold under the Wham-O brand.

For my thoughts on this item, check out my report in the May issue of Response.

April 28, 2016

The Hit Halo Effect

"[P]erformance creates a Halo that shapes the way we perceive strategy, leadership, people, culture, and more," wrote Professor Phil Rosenzweig in his 2007 book, The Halo Effect. In this month's Field Report, I explore how this effect applies to products.

In our industry, it results in a predictable phenomenon: Every hit will inevitably be followed by at least nine failed attempts to replicate that hit. Click here to read the post.

April 21, 2016

SciMark Report from April Response

My SciMark Report in print for April is now available on the Response Website.

This month, I cover three projects that were tried to see if a surprise hit was an outlier or a category. They are: IdeaVillage's Magic Puzzle, Telebrands' Smart Swab and Hampton's Brighter Viewer.

April 14, 2016

Time for Change

I launched this blog almost nine years ago. It has exceeded my expectations in every way. What started with a few dozen readers (leftovers from an internal email I sent to colleagues) has grown to nearly 1,200 subscribers. Along the way, The SciMark Report became one of the industry's most-read publications, earned me accolades, helped me gain clients and served its original purpose in spades. I set out to provide a free public library of DRTV tests, but I (mostly by accident) accomplished much more.

It hasn't been all positive, though. Publishing such a thorough report is a labor of love, and the labor often exceeds the love. I have also seen, on too many occasions now, how my posts can make life difficult for people I care about. It is primarily this latter problem that has led me to decide it's time for change.

Going forward, The SciMark Report will be more occasional and not nearly as comprehensive. I intend to focus less on specific projects and more on trends, categories, case studies and industry developments. I am also going to wait to write about new projects until they appear on the charts. That's the only way to avoid breaking news and inadvertently assisting copycats.

I'm optimistic that the end result will be an even better blog. As always, I welcome your feedback.

April 10, 2016

Blue Hawk & HD Clear Dash

Blue Hawk

Main Pitch: "High-definition dash cam ... records all audio and video like a hawk"
Main Offer: $39.99 for one with window decal
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Watch the spot

HD Clear Dash

Main Pitch: "Dashboard cam gives you instant replay for your car"
Main Offer: $29.99 for one
Bonus: Car charger, 14-hour memory chip (free)
Marketer: Tristar
Watch the spot

These two projects follow InvenTel's DashCam Pro, which was a True Top Spender of 2015.

Catch-Up Round-Up

I've fallen behind, so here's a BIG Monday round-up to catch you up and kick off your week ...

  1. Fuzzeez. Pitch: "The fuzzy friends you make yourself." Comments: Not long after Build-A-Bear became a trend, several toy companies tried DIY stuffed animals. After a high-profile bomb at Toys "R" Us and a few less-than-stellar DRTV attempts as well, the concept died. The closest thing to a success was IdeaVillage's Wuggle Pets in 2001-2012, which came during the Pillow Pet-fueled plush craze days. Anyway, given that history and the post-craze timing, it seems unlikely this one will do well. [ss]
  3. Shakeez. Starring: Dave Sinclair. Marketer: IdeaVillage. Pitch: "The fun, fast and easy way to make delicious shakes on the go." Comments: This one disappeared quickly, and it's no wonder. Shaker cups are ubiquitous, and this one's point of difference isn't very credible. [ss]
  5. Speed Sleeves. Brand: Copper Fit. Marketer: IdeaVillage. Pitch: "The compression calf sleeve that lets you play and train without the pain." Comments: IdeaVillage continues to expand their line. I have to wonder if it's diminishing returns at this point. Don't these later extensions eat into the profits created by earlier successes? [ss]
  7. Tough Knees. Brand: Copper Fit. Marketer: IdeaVillage. Pitch: "The compression support sleeve with padded knee protection." Comments: Ditto the comments and question above. If the answer is no, I'd really like to understand how one manages so many extensions efficiently. [ss]
  9. Miracle Bamboo Bra. Marketer: Ontel. Pitch: "The most comfortable bra you'll ever own." Comments: I'm not sure I understand the brand-extension strategy here. The Miracle Bamboo Pillow is selling, so women will want the same material in a bra? Or is it just easier to use a name you already own? IdeaVillage does similar things with their brands. I have yet to hear a good argument for it. At least the material makes sense for a bra. The same can't be said for how copper is being used these days. More to the point: What shot does this have with Tristar's Genie brand owning this position? And isn't this just an invitation to be imitated? [ss]
  11. Ab Bow. Marketer: Telebrands. Pitch: "Delivers a full body workout with perfect form." Comments: At $80 with a $19.99 trial, this is either part of a long-form strategy or a new foray into the DR fitness business model. [ss]
  13. Couch Coat. Marketer: Telebrands. Producer: Monte-Brooks. Pitch: "The remarkable reversible quilted cover that protects and revives your couch." Comments: This is a good problem solver for parents and pet owners, but I wonder if it's different enough to motivate people off their (uncovered) couches. [ss]
  15. Green Zone. Marketer: Telebrands. Pitch: "Virtually eliminates blind spots around your truck or car." Comments: My guess is that this is a second try for Clear Lane Mirror, which Tristar tested in early 2015. Since then, Allstar and Lenfest also tried a rearview mirror version (see XtraView Mirror) that didn't roll out. [ss]
  17. Jupiter Beams. Marketer: Telebrands. Pitch: "The amazing new way to add light to each of your fingers." Comments: This seems like a long shot, and the creative skews toward tweens, which is one of the least DR-responsive demographics. [ss]
  19. Grabtastic. Marketer: Tristar. Producer: Monte-Brooks. Pitch: "Never burn your hands again with the highest rated, waterproof, heat-resistant cooking gloves." Comments: Ontel just tested this item in January. See my review of Hot Hands for my thoughts. If I'm wrong and there's something to this, it could develop into an unexpected DRFC. [ss]
  21. Twitching Lure. Marketer: Tristar. Pitch: "The lure that twitches, flashes and buzzes like a wounded bait fish." Comments: Fishing is a dead category for DRTV. Until I see signs of new life, I'm just going to post these here for posterity. [ss]
  23. Soaker Snake. Marketer: Harvest. Pitch: "The all new plant hydration and nutrient delivery system." Comments: This is a clever idea, but no plant-watering product has worked since Allstar's Aqua Globes (circa 2008) ... and at least a half-dozen have been tried. [ss]
  25. Straight Up. Brand: InStyler. Pitch: "Instantly brush your hair straight." Comments: Another marketer enters the fray. InStyler is an established, credible brand for styling tools. But they're also $20 more expensive than the other three. [ss]
  27. Take Out Buddy. Pitch: "The easy-to-use food leveling system." Comments: Another item that should never have made it past the idea phase, let alone onto TV. [ss]

March 31, 2016

Spray Perfect & Nail Breeze

Spray Perfect

Main Pitch: "The spray-on nail polish that gives you perfect, polished salon-looking nails"
Main Offer: $19.99 for a can in choice of seven colors
Bonus: 2nd can/color, base & top coat (free)
Starring: Taylor Baldwin
Marketer: Top Dog
Producer: Hutton-Miller
Watch the spot

Nail Breeze

Main Pitch: "The amazing new airbrush polish that's totally brushless so you get salon-perfect results"
Main Offer: $10 for a can in pink
Bonus: 2nd can in silver (separate fee), base & top coat (free)
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Blue Moon
Watch the spot

Helping Hand 911

Description: A personal panic button
Main Pitch: "With the simple push of the red hand button, you will instantly talk to a 911 operator anywhere, any time"
Main Offer: $39.99 for one
Bonus: Belt clip, lanyard
Marketer: Telebrands
Watch the spot

"I've fallen, and I can't get up!" That phrase, which comes from a late-80s Life Call/Life Alert commercial, is one of the most well known in TV history. Calling the item Old Gold would be a huge understatement. It's at least Old Platinum. Now Telebrands not only wants to resurrect the idea, but it wants to do it by trashing the original concept ... I like it.

To clarify, I like it from a marketing standpoint. I have no idea if the project is actually executable. About that I have my doubts. There are also liability concerns. For one thing, the QC better be excellent. "Send it back for a full refund of the purchase price" isn't going to cut it here. I also wonder whether making it so easy to contact emergency services is a good idea. But these concerns are beyond my area of expertise.

S7 Analysis: Going down the checklist, the only place I paused was the targeted criterion. This commercial features a middle-age cyclist, but that's far-fetched. Watching the original Life Alert commercials, it's clear who the target customer is: Older seniors who use canes and walkers. That makes me wonder if the product is too senior to sustain a campaign without the ongoing subscription revenue that supported the original business.

Paper Plane Palooza

Description: A kit for building paper airplanes
Main Pitch: "New action kit ... makes, shapes, and creates the best paper planes"
Main Offer: $10 for one kit with 25 designs and 50 sheets of paper
Bonus: 50 more sheets of paper (free)
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: The Schwartz Group
Watch the spot

Maybe it's just me, but this seems like it would only appeal to the same niche market that thinks Origami is cool. For most kids, about the cheapest and easiest thing you can do when you're bored is fold random pieces of paper into an airplane. Making it complicated with special paper and fancy folding techniques kinda defeats the purpose.

I also wonder whether today's kids have ever even made a paper airplane? When they're bored, don't they just grab an iSomething and start playing games? And if they love airplanes, isn't there an app for that?

Weekly Round-Up

  1. Mattress Door Busters. Starring: Brian Hyder. Marketer: Tristar. Pitch: "Premium, top-of-the-line mattresses up to 75 percent off"." Comments: Tristar continues to experiment with new business models. Check out Was On TV and Doggy Bonanza Express if you're interested in reviewing some of their other experiments. I admire the ambition, but I wonder if a DRTV company is capable of operating ambidextrously. Based on my experiences and observations, it's hard enough to properly execute one business model. [ss]
  3. Chirpee. Marketer: Lenfest. Producer: Hutton-Miller. Pitch: "Listens in on birds while they sing and feed on the outside, then he repeats everything so you can hear it on the inside." Comments: This is sort of a cross between Lenfest's My Spy Birdhouse pitch and Telebrands' Perfect Polly. It's definitely different, but it's also an odd item to try on DRTV. [ss]
  5. Cuddle Up Playhouse. Pitch: "It's a blanket! It's a house! Plus a whole lot more." Comments: Just when you thought the industry had finally stopped imitating Pillow Pets ... Or is this an attempt at Old Gold just four years later? Design-wise, this is actually closer to Happy Nappers. [ss]
  7. Micro Zoom. Marketer: Allstar. Producer: Paddock. Pitch: "Lets you turn any phone or tablet into a 30X digital microscope." Comments: Written by yours truly. [ss]

March 24, 2016

Copper Solar Top Light

Description: A solar-powered outdoor light
Main Pitch: "The wireless self-charging copper light that turns on at night"
Main Offer: $12.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Kerrmercials
Watch the spot

The copper craze has passed the point of absurdity. I'm a bit embarrassed for our industry, actually. Are we so simplistic in our thinking that we can't separate the core of what makes something a hit from the superficial aspects that obviously had nothing to do with it? Put another way, do people in our business really think that simply adding a word from the brand name of a hit to any old project is going to have a positive impact on its CPO?

I don't mean to single out Telebrands. What happened here is that they tried a product called Solar Top Light in 2012 that didn't roll out. We can assume it was close and maybe just needed something to push it over the edge. It's now four years later, and copper is a huge trend, so they took a shot on a copper version. It's not a brilliant idea, but it's not the dumbest idea I've heard, either.

Besides, the commercial isn't implying this light has the same magical properties as Tommie Copper. Copper is simply the finish, and it's a good look for a light. At minimum, it doesn't hurt the pitch. The same can't always be said of the other copper items I've been reviewing lately. For example, to borrow a quip from a friend, a copper pan just seems like a good way to make your food taste like pennies.

S7 Analysis: Moving past the copper issue, lighting is a tricky category. Whenever I run an S7 analysis on any such item, it tends to fare well -- and this project is no different. Yet I know from the checkered history of the category that it deserves its spot on my 'bad categories' list. I really can't explain the discrepancy. I guess every checklist has its limitations.

Clever Cool

Description: A cooling knee pillow
Main Pitch: "Improves your body's natural alignment and gives you a more comfortable, cooler sleeping surface"
Main Offer: $14.99 for one with cover
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Allstar
Producer: Opfer
Watch the spot

The knee pillow is a classic example of Old Gold turned Siren. It happens sometimes. The market changes, an old item fails to resurrect once or twice, and yet marketers still hold onto the hope that they can figure out how to bring it back.

In this case, the Old Gold item is the Contour Leg & Knee Pillow, which was on the charts from 1999-2002, topping out at No. 1 in 2000. That's a nice shiny piece of gold, so I get it. But here's what has happened since then ...

  1. Simon Right tried the Ultimate Knee Pillow
  3. Ontel tried the same commercial under the name Huggy Knee Pillow
  5. National Express tried the Sobakawa Knee Pillow
  7. And Contour itself tried with Double Back

What's interesting is that all of those attempts featured 'new and improved' versions of the original concept. I suppose it's possible that the knee-pillow concept can still make a comeback, it's just that no one has found the right angle yet. (Hear the Siren calling?) But I'm not sure cooling is the thing. At least, the idea struck me as strange when I first considered it. Do sleep pain and sweaty thighs go together? Maybe solving the former problem creates the latter problem? I can't really say, but this feels like the old 'segment of a segment' thing again.

S7 Analysis: In S7 language, my issue is with the target. I think focusing the pitch in this way might be slicing the market too thin to support a campaign.

Wonder Ears

Description: Sound-amplifying headphones
Main Pitch: "Helps you hear so everything is clear"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: Clear TV key (just pay P&H)
Starring: Brian Hyder
Marketer: Tristar
Watch the spot

This is a cross between MyZone Headphones (2012) and Listen Up (2007), Loud 'N Clear (2009) and several other hit sound amplifiers from years past. That is to say, there's a strong category history here. Yet I'm still not loving this project.

The issue for me is the design, which I can tell was inspired by a regular seller called TV Ears. The issue is that design limits the functionality of the product. It really only works for watching TV (hence the name). The commercial tries to sell it as a portable sound amplifier as well, but the key to that pitch is to have the product be compact and discreet -- and this is anything but.

S7 Analysis: Even with its limitations, this product meets all of the important criteria for DRTV, especially in that it's targeted properly. Although I don't love it, I can see it rolling out -- especially since TV Ears' cheapest unit is still more than $100.

Luma Stone

Description: Tap lights that resemble stones
Main Pitch: "With a simple touch [they] provide you with the perfect amount of light"
Main Offer: $14.95 for two with holders
Bonus: Double the offer (free)
Marketer: IdeaVillage
Producer: Sullivan
Watch the spot

I've seen the inspiration for this product (which is more of an orb), and I remember liking it. I like what IdeaVillage has done with the idea even better. They've cleverly changed the product so that they could employ the old Tap Light (1999-2000) pitch, which also helped Ontel's Stick 'N Click (2006) and Telebrands' Stick Up Bulb (2006-2007) become successes.

It's fitting that the Sullivan team produced this commercial because they also produced all of those commercials. Actually, I think this is their best work yet, and it's because the new product design allowed them to give the creative that high-end 'spa' feel at which they excel.

Those are the positives. The negative is the category yet again. Lighting has not been kind to DRTV marketers in the years since 2007. This "stone" design is also best suited for the purse-light use, but the history has not been promising there , either. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least three purse lights that failed on DRTV (e.g. Light My Purse). There's also a tertiary pitch about this being a night light that can be carried, but that was also tried without success. I'm not one who thinks combining a winning concept with two losing concepts is advantageous.

S7 Analysis: A primary benefit of the "stone" design is that it's different, which is a good thing for cutting through the clutter but can also be polarizing. The 'hockey puck' design obviously works for people, and there's little risk in marketing something that looks like a light bulb. A stone, on the other hand, is more whimsical and kid-oriented, which could take it out of serious consideration for adults. Or not. It's just a guess. Like all lights, this fits the criteria pretty well otherwise.

Super Cooler

Description: A cooler
Main Pitch: "Super cool your favorite beverages to below freezing"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: 2 ice accelators
Marketer: Tristar
Watch the spot

This one has me stumped. I watched the commercial and closely reviewed the Website, but I'm still confused (and confusion is a sales killer). Is this product just a really effective cooler? Or is there some sort of additional device involved that instantly chills drinks outside of the cooler? The commercial uses a recurring special effect, but I can't tell if that's meant to be a representation of an actual function of the product. On the Website, there's mention of something called an "ice accelerator," but it isn't clear what that might be.

Bottom line: People won't buy what they don't understand, so this is a major liability for the project.

S7 Analysis: Setting aside the confusion concern and the obvious issues around seasonality (which is not an S7 criterion), I'm still left wondering if an item like this is needed. Most of the problem/solution sequences in the commercial come across as highly contrived. For instance, why would a sports fan need a special cooler to serve his buddies cold beer at home? Couldn't he just think ahead and put some bottles in the freezer before they arrived? Etc.

March 17, 2016

Scan Blocker

Description: A card that protects credit cards
Main Pitch: "The tried and tested way to prevent electronic pick-pocketing"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Allstar
Watch the spot

Years ago (circa 2011), Telebrands had a hit with a product called Aluma Wallet. One feature of said wallet was RFID-blocking technology. Since then, DR marketers have believed preventing electronic pick-pocketing (which is what RFID-blocking was all about) is a viable pitch. I’ve always thought it was a secondary pitch at best. The evidence has been hard to read.

On the one hand, there have been four attempts to market a sleeve that protects credit cards from this 'scourge.' On the other hand, Telebrands rolled out with the fourth attempt, called Card Lock, which became a 2015 True Top Spender. Last year, Ontel also had a True Top Spender called Lock Wallet, another RFID-blocking wallet. In the case, the RFID-blocking pitch was more primary – but it was still a good, functional wallet.

So where does that leave us? If we’re trying to establish that electronic pick-pocketing prevention is a category, we can piece together the three examples we need to support that case. But it’s by no means a slam dunk. This one is quite tricky.

S7 Analysis: It all comes down to the needed question. My feeling is that all of the focus on RFID has been a grand attempt to create a need where none previously existed. By now, perhaps, enough people know about the electronic pick-pocketing issue for RFID products to make sense. But does that mean they perceive a real need? If so, why would this commercial have to work so hard to inform and frighten people? Etc.

Perfect Cooker

Description: An electric pot
Main Pitch: "One touch, one pot, one perfect cooker"
Main Offer: 2 pay of $19.99 for one
Marketer: Tristar
Watch the spot

This is a great product and another reason for me to be excited. It combines the convenience of a slow cooker with the versatility of a cooking pot and it's portable. If there's a negative, it's the challenge of communicating so much in a two-minute format. It will be so much easier to explain this and build the pitch in long form and/or a live-shopping segment.

S7 Analysis: This one passes the S7 with flying colors. I could invent concerns, but they would all seem pretty minor.

Weekly Round-Up

  1. Pancake Express. Marketer: Spark Innovators. Pitch: "Quickly measures, mixes and dispenses." Comments: There's some reason to believe DRTV buyers are interested in pancakes, but the successes have all been pans. In 2002, Merchant Media and a company called Allied dueled with a pancake pan (Perfect Pancake vs. Pancake Wizard), and in 2013 Allstar and Telebrands dueled with an updated version (Perfect Pancake II vs. Flip Jack). I tend to doubt people will be interested in an easier way to make pancake batter, though. It's already pretty easy, and the benefit of this gadget must be weighed against its cost -- in dollars and cabinet space. [ss]
  3. Bubble Saucer. Pitch: "The amazing flying bubble machine." Comments: Looks like fun. Kids love bubbles and many like Frisbees. Not sure if they'll buy such a thing off TV, though. [ss]
  5. Easy Carry Clip Shadz. Pitch: "Easily clip on to your prescription eyewear." Comments: This might have a shot under the HD Vision brand with a better commercial. As it is, it's not very exciting -- and it also faces the 'segment of a segment' issue. [ss]
  7. Forever Wipers. Pitch: "Put a razor-sharp edge on dull wiper blades." Comments: This one's a tough read. Do people think of wiper blades in the literal sense? That is, do they think of them like razor blades and believe it's sharpness that matters? I don't think of them that way, but I've never asked around to find out what others think. [ss]
  9. Garden Genie. Pitch: "The gardening gloves that let you dig and plant without hand tools" Comments: This seems like it's designed for hard-core gardeners, and that segment has proved difficult to target. In other words, the best gardening products for DRTV have spillover appeal to non-gardeners. [ss]
  11. Glow Sharks. Pitch: "Turn your boring, ordinary bath water into a glow-in-the-dark tub party." Comments: Given the success of Party in the Tub and Shower Wow, there may be something here. Then again, it's only good for one use (like a glow stick), so that could be a barrier to purchase. Probably a good checkout item. [ss]
  13. Sleep Sitting Up. Pitch: "Chin pillow was designed to provide comfortable sleep while sitting up." Comments: Truly bizarre. SNL couldn't do better. I'm sad it won't go far because I'd love to see the parodies and read the online comments! [ss]
  15. Ultimate Jar Opener. Pitch: "Makes opening jars easy." Comments: Neat item, but probably too utilitarian. There's no real "wow." [ss]

March 16, 2016

Recline & Unwind

Description: A 5-mode massaging pad
Main Pitch: "Turns any recliner into a spa"
Main Offer: $39.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Watch the spot

I'm excited about this project and several others I have been seeing. It seems people are committed to helping me answer a question I posed on the ERA blog at the end of last year: Is $40 the new $20? Thanks for the help, industry!

As for this particular product, it feels out of time to me. There was a period when massage chairs were all the rage. It may have been as far back as when Sharper Image was still in business. Stores like that one and rival Brookstone certainly used massaging devices as a big draw, especially during the holidays. And many DRTV marketers took that as a cue there might be an opportunity. But aside from the bizarre Air-O-Sage that Igia rolled out in 2003 (Telebrands also did it under the name Air Press Massager), I can't think of any noteworthy hits.

S7 Analysis: Perhaps in no small part because of the Sharper Image and Brookstone wars, I feel like massage is a crowded category. I also have doubts about the needed criterion. If people are going to spoil themselves, I tend to think they'll spring for the real deal. This seems like a half-measure.

Selfie Starlite

Description: A star-shaped 'selfie' light
Main Pitch: "Gives you crisp, clear photos and videos every time"
Main Offer: $10 for one in white, one in black and pouch
Bonus: Double the offer, selfie stick (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Watch the spot

There has been no evidence so far that DRTV marketers can cash in on the 'selfie' trend. Believe me, I've tried. The reasons are fairly obvious in retrospect: The demographic is all wrong and the category (phone & tablet accessories) has the worst track record in our industry. This particular product also has a design that's bound to be polarizing. Some will think it's cute, others childish or silly. Do the calculation, and those are some pretty long odds.

S7 Analysis: Another way of saying 'wrong demo' is 'wrong target.' I'm also not sure how many people need better selfie lighting. Even for the most phone-obsessed teen, this seems like a problem that would be low on the scale. But I could be wrong about that. Teens could think it's positively devastating that their selfies are so dark. I wouldn't really know without some further research.

SciMark Report from March Response

My SciMark Report in print for March is now available on the Response Website.

In this month's issue, instead of writing about duels, I cover three marketers doing their own thing: IdeaVillage with Flexi-Frisbee, Telebrands with Fresh Pops and Tristar with the Perfect Posture Bra.

February 25, 2016

Copper Tag Out

Description: A skin tag remover
Main Pitch: "The easy, safe and natural way to remove skin tags at home"
Main Offer: $10 for 12
Bonus: 12 more (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands (2015 True Top Marketer)
Producer: Blue Moon
Watch the spot

You've heard of "not safe for work" (NSFW)? This one is not safe for mealtime (NSFM). Let's just say the image I picked for this post was the least gross. You've been warned ...

Moving on, this is technically a duel since one of the top 'feeders' in the industry just came out with the same item (see No. 8 in this Weekly Round-Up). However, it's unclear whether and how the duel would develop, so I'm just writing a basic review for now.

My thoughts remain the same. First, gross! Second, this seems like it would be painful, and cutting off blood flow is a bit frightening to me. Third, I'm thinking Tag Away was probably an outlier.

Orgreenic Mug

Description: A travel mug
Main Pitch: "Keeps coffee fresh all day long ... won't ever tip over"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Starring: Craig Burnett
Marketer: Telebrands (2015 True Top Marketer)
Producer: Kerrmercials
Watch the spot

Coffee mugs are another of my least-favorite categories for DRTV. I've never known any to be successful, and that includes some pretty neat ones such as Earthquake Mug (from which this project borrows part of its pitch). This also has the brand-mismatch issue I have been writing about recently. If Orgreenic stands for anything in the consumer's mind these days, it's non-stick ceramic -- not coffee-mug ceramic.

S7 Analysis: The obvious S7 shortcoming any coffee mug faces is that the category is crowded. While Mr. Burnett does a great job pitching the heck (can you say "hell" on direct-response television?) out of this mug, it's going to be hard to convince people this is meaningfully different from what they've seen before.

Recline Easy

Description: An extension handle for recliners
Main Pitch: "Lets you recline with ease and makes getting up a breeze"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands (2015 True Top Marketer)
Producer: Kerrmercials
Watch the spot

This seems too overly specific to be a good DRTV item. It's the 'segment of a segment' issue: Adults > who have recliners > who struggle to use said recliners. Even if the product were able to find its market on TV, the campaign would be limited.

I suppose Trusty Cane and, to some extent, Car Cane (everyone uses a car, not all use a recliner) give reason for hope. But I'd bet both of those campaigns faced the problem I'm articulating.

S7 Analysis: This item hits two out of three product criteria, but in this case two out of three is bad. Specifically, it's different and needed, but only for a too-narrow target market.